SAN DIEGO, CA – October 20, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Bill Emerson, Chairman of the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today delivered the following remarks at the association’s 102nd Annual Convention and Expo in San Diego, CA.
[Please Note: These are prepared remarks. Mr. Emerson may add to or subtract from these remarks during the course of his presentation. Portions of the text may be omitted during the speech.]
Good morning fellow members of the Mortgage Bankers Association.
It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be standing here today as the Chairman of the MBA. It’s been a long and interesting journey to get to this place but I am very glad to be here.
I’ve had the privilege of watching Bill Cosgrove lead this group for the last year and I want to take a moment and say thank you to Bill for his service and his leadership. He has done a tremendous job advocating for the industry. His passion for what’s right, regardless of the topic, has been great to experience and I have learned a lot from him.
I’ve also had the opportunity to interact with the two previous chairs while they were in the role, EJ Burke and Deb Still. These two fine folks were also exceptional in the role and provided great insight to Bill and me as we came up the leadership ladder. This industry truly has benefited from the leadership of all three of these great people. Let’s take a moment to recognize them.
I look forward to serving with two other individuals in my chair year, Rodrigo Lopez as the Chair-Elect and Dave Motley as the Vice-Chair. Our leadership ladder is in great shape for the next few years and it will be exciting to see Rodrigo take the helm next year as the first Latino Chair in MBA history.
So that brings us to my involvement in the MBA.
Quicken Loans has been an MBA member for as long as I can remember but it was about six years ago when I became truly active in the MBA. We looked around at the ever changing industry landscape and realized that we needed to get more involved in policy making and we needed to use our voice for the greater good of the industry. Shortly after we got more involved, Dave Stevens joined the MBA and his leadership and the execution by his team has been instrumental in our continued and expanding involvement with MBA. Getting more involved has been a decision that has paid off for us.
As for me, I’ve been in the business almost 23 years and I’ve worked at one place that entire time. Quicken Loans is a place that has always focused on taking care of our team members and our clients and that philosophy drives all of our decision making. I started as a loan officer and have grown over the years to be involved in every aspect of the mortgage banking business at one time or another so I think I have a unique perspective I can bring to the Chairman’s role. One of practitioner but also one who has seen the challenges of growth and the challenges that the industry has faced and will face going forward.
I am a student of history and look to it at times to learn from leaders and the challenges they faced. Two people I have always admired are Abraham Lincoln and Vince Lombardi. Two very different people and styles yet two people who knew how to motivate and inspire others.
Lincoln has been considered one of our greatest leaders and Presidents for his ability to hold the country together at a critical moment in history and for taking tough stands to lead through that tumultuous time. During his tenure as President he wasn’t always popular. Only through the lens of time has his greatness shown through. We owe him a great deal.
Lombardi is also a unique story. Coaching was his life. He loved the thrill of victory. When he took the head coaching job in the small town of Green Bay, he didn’t care who the team was or how they had been in the past. He looked to the future and how he could mold a winner. When he took over the team, they had been 2-10 the previous season. All he did in his first year was lead that team to a 7-5 record. He went on from there to win five NFL championships and two super bowls. His ability to move people and maximize talent is legendary.
In Lombardi’s very first meeting with the team in 1960, he set the stage with these words…”gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly pursue perfection, knowing that it doesn’t exist but we will pursue it anyway because as we chase perfection we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good.” This is the standard to which I hold myself in all things I do and it will be no different in my role as MBA Chairman. Good enough is the enemy of great, so settling for good enough is never an option.
So as I think about the next year and the years beyond that, it strikes me that we have a unique opportunity in front of us as a group. We have the ability to affect the outcome for all of the stakeholders in the real estate finance industry lenders, consumers, advocates, regulators, legislators, et al.
This brings me to the path forward.
As many of you know, Quicken Loans is from Detroit and we are proud of it. One of Detroit’s native sons is Bob Seger who wrote a great song about “turning the page”. I see this as our critical theme this year. For the last eight years, we have struggled with the damage done in the financial crisis- the damage to our customers, to communities, to our reputation and to our industry. Well it’s time to turn the page on that past and focus on a promising future. Home prices are up, unemployment is down and we have reforms in place that make the market safer, as a whole, and more sustainable for consumers, the economy and our businesses. In fact, the market that exists today may be one of the safest lending markets in decades.
I’m not suggesting we ignore the past. That would be foolish. But rather than dwelling on the past, we must learn from it to continue to build a better future. It should be a foundation and not something that weighs us down.
What does this really mean? It means working together to unite the industry. While we all have different business models, we all want to serve our clients and help Americans achieve the dream of homeownership. It means working with regulators, consumer advocates, legislators and stakeholders to ensure that the markets are strong and safe.
For the most part, we see policymakers, the industry and consumer advocates wanting the same thing… a healthy vibrant, stable market that provides broad access to sustainable credit for consumers all across the country. This alignment is no small feat and cannot be taken for granted. Does that mean we see eye to eye on everything? Of course not. But again, if we have the same outcome in mind then we can come together to focus on the right solutions together to make the biggest impact. The key is looking ahead and not behind.
During my time in the industry, I’ve seen the members of the MBA interact on many issues and I’ve always marveled at no matter how different the business model, we usually agree on about 90% of the issues and solutions. Now, more than ever, we need to unify behind the 90% and speak loudly with our large voice. Does that mean we don’t care about the 10%? No, but it means we focus and prioritize the things we do agree on and continue to work on the areas where we may differ. Uniting as a group is my first priority.
In addition to the constant MBA goal of uniting all stakeholders to serve consumers, I will be focusing on several topics important to the industry in the coming year.
There is no doubt in my mind that we would be well served to continue to focus on two things that Bill Cosgrove was relentless about during his tenure… CEO engagement and the first-time homebuyer.
First, we did a very good job of getting more CEO’s involved in advocacy and taking part in the process. We need to continue to do that because it matters. Leadership from the top is critical. It drives the advocacy efforts of the companies they represent. It takes time and a special commitment of resources and finances to advocate for the things that matter to our industry and make things good for consumers. Our industry is more powerful and our voice is louder in Washington, D.C., if the leaders of companies participate in these efforts. I challenge every CEO in this great industry to reach out to Dave and me and get personally involved in the MBA’s work. I appreciate the progress we’ve made to date but there is much more to do. We can’t lose our focus here.
Second, on the first-time homebuyer front we have a lot of work to do and it will remain a priority for me and the MBA. The first-time homebuyer is critical to the success of any housing market and they fall into many policy categories including the broad topic of access to credit. The rules that have been written have impacted the first-time homebuyer, as have the recent policies of FHA, the loan that many first-time homebuyers count on. We must continue to advocate for smart, clear policy decisions from FHA that will promote homeownership for that important group and the many other American families that rely on it.
Third, the market today is struggling to adequately serve all of our communities, and demographic trends are a real opportunity, but could only make it more difficult if we don’t see real change. People of color will play a more prominent role in the formation of households and we must make moves now as an industry to embrace diversity in our lending and hiring practices. Our companies should look more like the communities we serve today and will continue to serve in the future. Not only does it help us meet the needs of more consumers who dream of owning a home, it makes our companies better. We must focus on turning the page in this important aspect of our business to thrive in the future. It’s the right thing to do and it makes complete business sense.
Fourth, at Quicken Loans we often describe ourselves as a technology company that happens to do mortgages. It’s important that our industry becomes more technologically advanced and works to serve our clients the way they want to be served. It is incumbent on all of us, lenders and technology providers alike to step up and make the investment to improve or replace many of the old, outdated systems still too prevalent in our industry. The millennials are here and they are teaching us that using technology is how they will transact. We have to embrace this concept today, not tomorrow, if we are to stay relevant in the future.
I want to make one final point-we will never waiver on working with policymakers, regulators and legislators to ensure our industry clearly understands the rules of the road and gets clarity around what those rules mean. Enforcement has become the way of educating the industry. It’s simply the wrong way to do things. We all agree that bad actors should be punished but the enforcement regime that exists today is irresponsible and creates true access to credit issues that we all must realize and address. We have to keep fighting against this extreme practice. Enforcement has its place but it is out of balance today. We must keep fighting for the clarity that any rational person would want. That clarity allows lenders to lend to the broadest edge of the credit box responsibly and is what our first-time homebuyers deserve.
As Lombardi wisely knew, perfection doesn’t exist. There is no perfect manufacturing process and there hasn’t been a perfect rule written yet. Mistakes happen in a manufacturing process. However it is crucial to have the sense to recognize the vast chasm between a mistake and fraud.
Mistakes also happen in rule writing and that doesn’t mean that the rule can’t and shouldn’t be improved. Rules are no different than manufacturing processes. Both should constantly be reviewed and improved. We all owe that to ourselves and the consumers we all serve- lenders, regulators, policymakers and consumer advocacy groups alike.
As we look to the future, we must continue to build stronger coalitions with all market participants around the vision of a strong, stable and clear housing finance system. One that supports broad access to responsible credit and homeownership and one that creates the opportunity for the future of the housing industry that is so vital to the overall growth and health of our economy.
One more thing, to my friends in the commercial/multifamily space, your issues and concerns are our issues and concerns, whether you are a mortgage banker, capital source or another commercial real estate industry participant. Whether you are focused on the future of housing finance or any other issue of importance that affect your business — my door will be open to work with you on the things that matter to you.
This is the time to turn the page, change the dialogue and focus on the positives that have been created and continue to work together as industry participants.
We must continue to stand united and work for the things we all know will make a difference.
We must focus on embracing the changing demographics of our consumer base and in turn, change the face of our own companies. We must embrace the millennials and technology as a way of delivering the dream of homeownership.
We must continue to advocate for clarity of rules and changing the mentality of enforcement as the chosen path of educating. The current path only frightens lenders and causes them to pull back on the ever important issue of access to credit which impacts first-time homebuyers, people of color and the up and coming millennial group that want to buy homes.
And we must focus on smart policy decisions from agencies like FHA and the many regulators we all deal with to make sure homebuyers have the responsible access to credit they need and deserve.
At Quicken loans, we talk a lot about culture and philosophy and two things come to mind when I think about where we go from here.
First – every client, every time, no exceptions, no excuses. Let’s think this way and live this way and we will make great decisions as business people. Second “you will see it when you believe it” – this speaks to believing we can affect the outcome even when it looks like we can’t. We have to believe we can move mountains just as Lincoln believed he could, regardless of the odds or the obstacles.
As I close today, I look forward to working with all industry participants, consumer advocates, policymakers, legislators and regulators to create the changes that will make this industry one that will thrive and one we can all be proud of.
As Gandhi said years ago, “be the change you want to see.”
Rob Van Raaphorst
(202) 557- 2799